Rating: 4 / 5
I read and loved CONFESSIONS by Kanae Minato on audio last month, so I picked up the author’s PENANCE (translated by Philip Gabriel) on audio for Women in Translation Month in August. CONFESSIONS was dark and twisty, so I was hopeful to get more of the same with this one.
PENANCE follows a group of women looking back at the trauma they experienced in their youth. As children Sae, Maki, Akiko, Yuko, and Emily were playing on a school holiday. When a stranger approaches them for assistance, Emily goes to help and that is the last time the girls see her alive. The four girls discover her body and split up to alert the police and Emily’s mother of the tragedy. Each girl has a slightly different account of what happens and Emily’s mother is desperate to get the truth out of them, even years later as the statute of limitations on the girl’s murder draws near. She has vowed that they will pay for her daughter’s death.
Much like CONFESSIONS, this is a dark and twisted story, but so well written. The POV shifts from girl to girl as they give an account of what happened all those years ago. In each woman’s current state in life, we can see the lasting impact that trauma has had on each of them. Minato knows how to write a compelling story focused on the darkness that takes over in the quest for revenge.
This is not a very long novel, but the author manages to provide a fully fleshed out story with distinct voices from the different characters as the POV shifts. Though the stories do overlap given that the women are returning to the same tragic story, the author manages not to make the stories feel repetitive.
To my knowledge these are the only two books by this author that have been translated to English, but I do hope that there will be more in the future! I would recommend this one to anyone looking for a good, dark and twisty tale!